Tragedies birth resilience

Tragic events can develop resilience in your life.

In an instant a perfectly beautiful day can become a defining moment.

After June 24. 1971

The day was beautiful. One of those typical bright sunny Florida days. I sat watching the wake from the boat propellers as we headed back to shore. At eight years old I didn’t have a care in the world.

We were returning from a fun day of deep sea fishing. My brother was putting away all the fishing gear, mom was down in the galley cleaning up, Jay Jay (my dog) was sleeping on the seat pad covering one of the outboard engines, and dad was on the fly bridge steering us back to the marina.

Then suddenly there was the sound of an explosion coming from behind me. I spun around to witness fire and smoke billowing from the engines.

I looked at my brother’s face and saw confusion, which quickly turned to panic causing him to jump into the ocean water. Paralyzed with fear, I frantically called out to mom. It was impossible to see with all the smoke. Meanwhile, Dad was completely unaware of the inferno below him. After making repeated cry’s for mom, she finally emerged from between the twin engines. She was covered in black diesel smoke. Her body, all but her eyes, hair, and two fingers were severely burned.

That’s when I panicked and jumped overboard. I went into shock. The propellers were directly below my feet, still turning, but I didn’t have presence of mind to swim. Mom reached over the rails grabbing my hands in an attempt to keep my feet from hitting the propellers or worse drowning. Even though mom was in excruciating pain her first reaction was to save me. I’ll never forget the feeling of moms flesh coming off in my hands as she tried to hold on to me. She was losing her grip. As I was slipping I heard her yell for my dad.

All these years later I still remember the look on his face when he turned around. He rushed down the stairs and dove into the water to get me away from the burning boat.

Mom was now the only one still on board. There was no place for her to go except to jump into the salt water. She was full of fear as she knew how much the salt would burn her already scorched body (I’ve often wondered how she made herself do that).

When she finally jumped in. All I heard was a loud moan. At that point mom went into shock. Now dad was the only person able to get us to safety.

About this time I remembered our dog, Jay Jay, was still on the boat. Where was he? Dad called for him but he didn’t respond. My heart was broken. I thought, “How could we just leave him?” This guilt haunted me for most of my childhood.

We were about 200 yards from the marina entrance. People were gathered along the seawall watching this all unfold. Somehow dad managed to get us to a buoy, which was covered with barnacles, where we began to scream for help. Dad was focused on mom.

We waited for what seemed like hours before another boat could rescue us. They carefully lifted mom from the water. The second and third degree burns could now be seen as the black soot had been washed away by the salty ocean water.

Once on shore, we waited and waited for medical help to arrive, finally an onlooker grabbed the key to his station wagon and told us to get in. By this time mom was in bad shape. The summer heat made getting in the car more like being placed in an oven. As dad helped mom slide across the hot vinyl seats my brother and I just cried. That was all we could do. We were so shaken up.

They got mom to the hospital and took her inside with dad right next to her. We had to wait. I vividly remember sitting on the curb outside the hospital with my brother waiting to hear how mom was doing. We bounced back and forth between worrying if mom was going to die and wondering about Jay Jay. Fear does that to children. I don’t know how long we sat there before my grandparents arrived.

Seeing two young wet children sitting outside prompted a nurse to bring us a couple of towels to dry off.  That was the first time we were given reassurance that mom would be fine.

The next day we went to the hospital to see her, but because of her condition we were only allowed to see her through an outside window. She looked like a mummy. When she saw us she waved with the only two fingers not wrapped. We laughed at how funny she looked. The laughter was like a release value.

She was in the hospital for over two and a half months before she was able to come home. Then she had many more months of physical therapy as she lost so much muscle.

This accident had a profound impact on my life. Not only did I have to deal with the emotional trauma of beginning in a horrific accident, I had to watch a person I dearly loved fight their way through a difficult recovery process.

If you have young children who have experienced traumatic events there are 7 things you can do to help them process what is happening.

  • Think like a child. Children don’t have the reasoning and logic capabilities adults do. Put yourself in their place.
  • Let them talk about the event when they are ready. Talking helps some children process what they have gone through. It is also a great opportunity for you to cultivate a closer relationship with them.
  • Tell them the truth and fill in the blanks. Make sure they are age appropriate and wanting to know more before you share details.
  • Be understanding if they become fearful or pull away. Every child handles traumas differently.
  • If you think outside counseling is needed don’t hesitate to contact a professional.
  • Help them understand the positive life lessons from the event. Those can be a good source of strength when they face other difficult situations in life.
  • And most of all point them to God. Talk of His provision, love and purpose in these situations. The faith of a child is powerful. When this tragedy happened we weren’t believers, but God still used this event to develop resilience in my life.

Life is full of unexpected events. These tragedies can birth resilience. They can make us stronger. They can build our faith. They can become more than just a story we tell our children. They can be life shaping.

If you have gone through or are going through a tragic event my encouragement to you is to look to the Lord for help and guidance. You are able to overcome any crisis. Be resilient. This will one day pass.

Don’t let tragic events stop you from enjoying life. It’s a choice you get to make.

Before

 

After mom recovered my parents purchased another boat, and we learned to over-come our fear of going out into the ocean. Good came from the “Inferno” on the river.

Do you allow tragic events to make you resilient or fearful?

Life Giving Hope

With one phone call your life can change. Would you be ready?

The phone rang during work hours. “Hello, Connie. Your mom is in the hospital.” I sat in silence. Suddenly nothing matter but getting to her. I shut down my computer, packed an overnight bag, and made the drive to the hospital.

Life-giving Hope

Life-giving Hope

My mind was swirling. It is hard to explain how your thoughts can bounce all over the place… my mom, my work, my travel schedule, my book.  What does this mean? God help me!

During my drive I felt the need to call the president of the company I was working for and share the news. His first response was like none other I had received – “Family first, and we will be praying for your mom.” I had heard him say this many, many times, but this time it was directed at me. They were life-giving words when I needed them most. Even knowing that my work load was very high, his concern was for my mom.

Once I arrived at the hospital, I had to assess the situation. What was wrong? How long would Mom be there? What would be our game plan going forward?

The doctor told me Mom was experiencing severe muscle wasting. She was down to 98 pounds. “It’s time to call in hospice,” I heard in disbelief.  What? No way! I’m going to be her hospice. I can’t tell her they said that. It would take her hope away. But I had to tell her husband what the doctor said.

As we sat in the waiting room, I shared the details of how sick mom really was. We just cried. Actually, broke down would be a more accurate description.

My mom has suffered with COPD for many years. Now it was just much more advanced. You see, her family members had been farmers who grew many crops, one of which was tobacco. So smoking was a normal pastime for them. Even though she quit smoking 27 years ago, the damage was done.

Then, in 1971, my immediate family was in a serious boating accident.  My mom suffered second and third degree burns over her entire body. This accident also severely damaged her lungs.

But back to our experience in the hospital. I was told to enjoy our days together. Enjoy our days?! Surely they were wrong. So I did what any person would do.  I got another opinion. When the specialist came in the room, I asked her to step outside as I needed to speak with her. She was of the same opinion.

“Your mom has a year. But she could pass away at any time. Especially if she gets a cold. Her body isn’t strong enough to fight it off.” Tears just flowed. All I could think of were the words “pass away at any time.” The thought of losing my mom was overwhelming.

After I pulled myself together, my resolve was to fight. If she needed to gain weight, then I’d make sure she ate more. Six times a day to be exact. I spent hours researching COPD – its stages, reversing muscle wasting, treatments options. In order the fight this I needed to fully understand it.

We knew God was in control so we prayed for wisdom, direction and healing. With Him we had hope for tomorrow.

Now that I knew the type of care she needed I decided she and her husband needed to move in with my family. So my thoughtful daughter moved out of her room (it’s bigger with a private bath) and into her brother’s old room. We worked diligently to get it ready for them. We would take care of her.

Mom and her husband moved in with us. I worked before she woke up, during her naptime, and after she went to bed. It was reminiscent of what I did when the kids were younger and I homeschooled them all. I was used to working around schedules. Balancing work and caring for mom was working.

This worked for two short weeks. That’s when they starting missing being in their own home. I thought to myself, go home?! How do I make that work? The kids are in one city, and she lives one hour and a half away. We couldn’t just drop by to check on her or make sure she was consuming enough calories. This became a new challenge to overcome.

I knew I couldn’t afford to take time off from work for many reasons. Finances, I have two kids in college. Responsibility, I signed a contract. I had to honor my word. Plus others were counting on me to do my job. And I was part of their leadership team. I had to figure out how to juggle it all.

My thoughts went from one thing to the next. As a planner I had to come up with a plan to make it all work. Caregivers do this all the time, right? Now I was a caregiver.

The plan was to stay with them three or four days a week, then go home or go on a business trip. We brought in home health care to help set up what was to become a new normal.

Every morning I was relieved to hear the kitchen light turn on at 6:00. That meant she made it through the night. Whew! Today would be a good day.

I cooked, cleaned, and took her to doctor appointments. Things were settling down. We started to find a new rhythm. We talked about end-of-life issues very vaguely. I told her how important it was to follow the doctor’s instructions.

Then we had one of the hardest discussions of my life. I started by reminding her how very fragile she was and that her condition could decline rapidly. It was at that conversation we decided to live life fully alive. Not waiting to die. And after all, that is exactly how God calls us to live anyway.

As the days have turned into weeks, and weeks into months, I am amazed at how strong she is. Her desire to keep going and never quit has made all the difference. She has hope for her future.

At the time of this writing we are ten months from that day. So much has happened since then. While Mom’s health has declined, her spirits are good. She doesn’t get around like she once did, but that doesn’t stop her. She now uses a scooter. I believe she has done so well in part because we didn’t let others write this chapter of her life. As long as there is hope and faith you can do the unthinkable.

Life Giving Hope Connie and Fran face to face

Through it all, the company I worked for remained supportive of me and committed to praying for her. I firmly believe the last ten months could have been much more difficult for me.

I don’t know what God’s plan is, as only He knows the number of our days. But I am confident that God will continue to guide and provide for us. He is faithful in all things! I have decided to reduce my work load in order to enjoy more time with mom and my family.

If you are going through hardship, don’t lose hope. Allow yourself to take each moment as it comes. You will, at times, feel out of control. Don’t spend time worrying about all the “what if scenarios.” God will see you through.  Sometimes you can only take one step at a time, but be faithful to take that next step.

She has hope for the next day.

Have you been a caregiver for an aging parent? How did you manage your new normal?

~Connie

 

Teach Your Children Well

Teach your children well. This statement is something a parent hears many times. I sure did. When you are in the middle of raising children, building a family and managing a busy life it is hard to know if what you are focused on is really going to matter. Or if you are doing it well.

Children will bear fruit if you teach them well.

Children will bear fruit if you teach them well.

For years, we trained our children important life skills, to know and love God, and to rely on family.  We encourage them to learn God’s Word and to be encouraged by His faithfulness.  We were discouraged when we saw little or no fruit. But, we continued on and waited.

2014 FPEA Homeschool Graduation Ceremony

2014 FPEA Homeschool Graduation Ceremony in Central Florida at the beautiful Gaylord Palms Resort. Why was I honored to speak before the excited gathering of 6,500 attendees? It allowed me to pay tribute to parents and graduates who completed their homeschool journey and encourage moms to give back. Homeschooling your children is not an easy task. I know how much work goes into this job!

The graduation ceremony follows the FPEA Homeschool Convention every May. Their attendance ranges between 15,000-17,000 attendees. I know for many that is a staggering amount of people. Some liken it to the crowds at Walt Disney World. While they are worlds apart…there is one thing they have in common, the people are happy to be there.This conference is described by national homeschool leaders as the largest multi-day homeschool convention in the country. However, that is not why this is conference is so near and dear to my heart.

Casting The Vision For A New Year

 

A new year! One of my favorite things about beginning a new year, is the chance for a fresh start. A time to reflect on the past and begin casting a vision for a new year. This allows you to look forward to what the next year might bring.

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Casting a vision for a new year. It includes your family.

New Year’s resolutions abound every January.  Do you make any?  I’ve been known to make, and break, a few!

Many resolutions focus on something we can do better, whether it’s losing weight, eating healthier, making more money, or having a better outlook on life.

Instead of focusing solely on what I can improve upon, our family would  focus on where we are as a family and where would we like to be in the future. With an emphasis on relationships within the family unit.